The Words of the Week - July 28

Dictionary lookups from politics, sports, and social media
two elegant classic cowboy boots on an orange clay background


Reboot has been in the news a good amount, following reports that the presidential campaign of Ron DeSantis was planning on doing just that.

Stalled in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' campaign is rebooting, promising what advisers are calling a leaner, meaner "insurgency" effort going forward.
— John Kennedy,, 24 July 2023

The sense that applies to the DeSantis campaign here is “to start (something) anew : to refresh (something) by making a new start or creating a new version.” Reboot was first used in a computing sense, “to shut down and restart (a computer or program).” This use, as both verb and noun, dates from the early 1970s.

The operator can reboot the EMR operating system and execute FORTRAN programs if he desires.
—Jack Wayne Frickey, Neon-20 (Alpha, Alpha (0,1,2)) Neon-20 Experiment at 16.8 MEV with Automated Data-Analysis (Diss.), 1972

A “crash” is an unscheduled system reboot or halt.
—Dennis M. Ritchie and Ken Thompson, The UNIX Time-Sharing System (in Communications of the ACM), July 1974

The boot portion of reboot is one that we define as “to load (a program) into a computer from a disk”; this sense is a shortening of bootstrap (“a computer routine consisting of a few initial instructions by means of which the rest of the instructions are brought into the computer”), a computing term in use since the 1950s:

In case the machine is absolutely devoid of correct program data either on the magnetic drum or magnetic tape, the data are read into the computer by means of a bootstrap technique from punched cards or punched tape.
—Walter F. Bauer, An Integrated Computation System for the ERA-1103* (in Journal of the ACM), July 1956


The company formerly known as Twitter recently announced that it would henceforth be known as X, a move that prompted some derision, as well as increased lookups for the word trademark, when it was discovered that another company appeared to have a relevant trademark in this area.

Elon Musk’s ‘X’ already trademarked by Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta for ‘social networking services’
— (headline) Independent (London, Eng.), 26 July 2023

When used as a noun trademark means “a device (such as a word) pointing distinctly to the origin or ownership of merchandise to which it is applied and legally reserved to the exclusive use of the owner as maker or seller.” The verb sense seen above is defined as “to secure trademark rights for : register the trademark of.” X represents a case of a company trademarking an existing word, for commercial purposes; in a number of cases, however, a trademark has started off as a word created for commercial purposes, and then transitioned through use to become a commonly-used word. Some examples of this are band-aid, jungle gym, and heroin.

‘Cardiac arrest’

Cardiac arrest trended in lookups, after the son of LeBron James suffered one while playing basketball.

No new details on Bronny James 2 days after cardiac arrest
– (headline) ESPN, 26 July 2023

A cardiac arrest is “temporary or permanent cessation of the heartbeat.” Cardiac can mean “of, relating to, situated near, or acting on the heart”; the word can be traced to the Greek kardia, meaning “heart.” While arrest is most often encountered used as a verb, meaning “to capture,” it can also function as a noun, as it does here, with the meaning “the act of stopping.”


Defamatory appeared in numerous newspaper stories last week, after Rudy Giuliani conceded that he made statements of this nature about election workers.

Rudy Giuliani, onetime attorney for former U.S. President Donald Trump, admitted in a court filing late Tuesday that he made defamatory statements about a pair of Georgia election workers.
— Jacqueline Thomsen, Reuters, 26 July 2023

Defamatory is defined as “containing defamation : injurious to reputation.” Defamation has a specific legal definition, which is “communication to third parties of false statements about a person that injure the reputation of or deter others from associating with that person.”

The verb defame has the meaning “ to harm the reputation of by libel or slander.” When using or encountering any of these words in a legal context it may be helpful to remember that harming someone's reputation in speech with falsehoods is generally referred to as slander, while doing the same thing in writing is known as libel (although libel sometimes includes speech as well).


Episode was high in lookups, after Senator Mitch McConnell appeared to have stroke-like symptoms during a press conference.

McConnell episode alarms Senate GOP - The Senate minority leader trailed off during a press conference and stared straight ahead for a few seconds as his fellow senators asked if he was OK., 26 July 2023

Episode has a number of possible meanings, such as “a television show, radio show, etc., that is one part of a series,” and “an event or a short period of time that is important or unusual.” The sense that pertains to McConnell is “an occurrence of a usually recurrent pathological abnormal condition.” The word comes from the Greek epeisodios, meaning “coming in besides,” and has been in use in English use since the 17th century.

Words Worth Knowing: ‘Unasinous’

This week’s word worth knowing is unasinous, defined in our 1934 Unabridged Dictionary as “alike in stupidity.” Sometimes you need to describe something (or someone!) that is every bit as stupid as some other thing (or person!) that is very stupid, and this is the word for that. It is a useful word, and we hope that you use it well.